08 March 2013

Caveat homo sapiens

Humans everywhere, beware! That is the meaning of the title.

I have written before about the collapse of the modern world around 100 years ago, when, owing to developments in science and technology, it could no longer account for the reality on the ground. Cultures change slowly however. Marshall McLuhan famously said that the medieval people saw themselves as Roman, while the people of the modern period saw themselves as medieval. It's no wonder, then that now we think of ourselves as modern. Said another way, most people are chronically behind the curve at any given point in human history.

The modern world view, with its emphasis on the here-and-now, its faith in reason, and its addiction to "progress," is alarmingly inadequate for dealing with the dangers we face: global warming, the toxification of our seas and fresh waterways, the gun culture, the mishandling of the economy by politicians, and assaults on our constitutional protection against unlawful search and seizure.

I'd like to deal with each of these in turn, taking global warming first. We should call it by its real name, global warming and not by the euphemism "climate change." The scientists all agree: the planet is warming more quickly than it ever has. This warming coincides with industrialization and the mechanisms are well known. The role of carbon has been discussed at length, but methane is barely on our radars. Methane is a more powerful greenhouse gas than carbon. Unfortunately, inconsiderate human activity is causing an accelerating rise in atmospheric methane, primarily by the prevalence of feedlots and indirectly by the warming process itself: melting permafrost and ice cover is releasing methane which had been trapped.

These trends are continuing and accelerating and our activities are the principal driver. We must change. Individuals can make these changes and encourage others to do the same. For example, we can switch modes of transportation. Riding a bus which runs on natural gas instead of a car with a gasoline engine will reduce carbon production as a first step. Saving up the money we would use to operate a car will enable us eventually to purchase and all electrical vehicle, which we can use until fuel cell technology can make electrical production relatively harmless. We can eat grass-fed beef and refuse to eat meat raised in feedlots. It will cost more, so we will eat less, improving our diet. When enough people join in, methane production will start to fall.

Beginning this process is an urgent need. We are unlikely to feel sufficiently motivated unless we take seriously the post-modern time we live in. What we did before 1900 (and continued to do in the 20th century) will not help us now. This is what Einstein meant when he said that "you cannot solve problems if we remain at the same level of thinking that created them." Will you be willing to go to that next level and help rescue us from the Age of the Machine?

In my three-novel series on Angela, the main character and her friends are beginning to grapple with these questions. Angela 1: Starting Over now has a new publisher, Progressive Rising Phoenix, and is priced at a much more reasonable $9.50. You can get it on Kindle even cheaper. Check it out at http://www.amazon.com/author/bedforddavid .

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